Being premier was never on Darrell Pasloski’s bucket list.
He’s lived in the territory almost 26 years, and raised his kids here. He was a pharmacist before he was elected, and his wife was an X-ray technician.
“We’ve always been in healthcare, we’ve always been about helping people and giving back,” the Yukon Party MLA for Mountainview said in an interview on Thursday.
Pasloski took the reins of the Yukon Party after former premier Dennis Fentie stepped aside in the spring of 2011. The party had been wracked by infighting, and Pasloski was a fresh start.
He had no previous political experience, aside from an unsuccessful run for the federal Conservatives against Liberal MP Larry Bagnell in 2008.
He was sworn in as Yukon’s premier on June 11, 2011, and led the Yukon Party to its third consecutive majority government that October.
“I wish that I knew at the beginning of the mandate what I know at the end,” he said. “This is a difficult job. It’s a very humbling job.”
Pasloski’s government has launched a number of major projects, including the new F.H. Collins school, the new Sarah Steele detox centre, the expansion of the Whitehorse General Hospital, the new Salvation Army centre and the Whistle Bend continuing care facility. It also completed new hospitals in Dawson City and Watson Lake.
It has prided itself on its fiscal record, having delivered five consecutive surplus budgets. The Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada that currently has no net debt.
But the Yukon Party has also earned itself a reputation for not being able to get along with Yukon First Nations. A dispute over protection of the Peel watershed is going to the Supreme Court of Canada, just one of several court cases filed by First Nations against the Yukon Party government in recent years.
None of that matters now, though, in Pasloski’s estimation. He has said repeatedly since dropping the writ on Oct. 7 that this election “isn’t about the past five years.”
For him, it seems to be primarily about a carbon tax.
He argues that a federally imposed carbon tax would make everything more expensive in a jurisdiction that already has a high cost of living.
But he seems to think the Yukon Party can resist a carbon tax by sheer force of will. While Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has made noises about a constitutional challenge if the Trudeau government imposes a carbon price, Pasloski has given almost no indication of what he might do to fight it.
“What I’m going to do is what we have done and that is explain our situation that exists in this territory,” he said.
The Yukon Liberals are now saying they’ve heard from federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that there will be no exemption for the Yukon. If that’s true, and if the Yukon Party has nothing else up its sleeve, using fear of the tax to win votes seems like a fairly cynical tactic.
But the Yukon Party’s platform includes other, more tangible promises.
The party has pledged to work on a redundant fibre-optic line up the Dempster Highway, new roads to three major mine sites and upgrades to the Stewart-Keno transmission line. There are plans to build an outdoor sports complex in Whitehorse and to look at building a second bridge to Riverdale.
The party is also committing $100 million over five years for energy retrofits. It plans to create a territorial mineral exploration tax credit, and is promising no tax increases.
Like the other major parties, it wants to turn Yukon College into a university. It also plans to lobby the federal government for a dedicated infrastructure fund that Yukon First Nations would be eligible for.
It’s a well-rounded platform, with more big promises than the Liberals’, something Pasloski is quick to point out.
“The strength of our commitments and the breadth of them speaks to a clear vision for the future,” he said, adding that the other parties’ platforms include a lot of “platitudes.”
Still, a number of the bigger projects, including the fibre-optic line, are waiting on federal funding commitments and don’t yet have firm timelines.
But perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Yukon Party is the amount of time it’s been in office — 14 years. No party in the Yukon has ever won four consecutive mandates.
Regardless, Pasloski’s ready for a fight. Asked if he would collaborate with the other parties if a minority government is elected, he said only that he is “100 per cent focused right now on earning the ability to govern in a majority.”
“I’m a pharmacist, I ran a couple of drug stores,” he said. “One of the things that really bothered me was the simple fact that for so long, I’d always listened to leaders and parties make all kinds of promises, get elected and then find excuses why they couldn’t deliver it.
“What we put on our platform we have to deliver.”
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org